Truckers, Immigrants Detail the Human Smuggling Struggle

Sunday’s human smuggling deaths in San Antonio call attention to a problem, one Dallas trucker said has been going on for years.

“It’s not hard. All you gotta do is approach the right guy that looks like he needs the money and the guy’s gonna do it, said Keith Coddington, whose been driving for 31 years.

Coddington said human smugglers make up a small fraction of the trucking industry, but he knows there are people willing to do it – even a former employer.

“I worked for a company that used to do it and when I found out about it – I got pulled over through law enforcement and searched and they asked me a bunch of specific questions that I didn’t have the answers to and I quit,” he said.

Outside a Spanish mass in downtown, we met Jamie Parea, an American, born to illegal immigrants.

“I’m the product of somebody who made that choice a long time ago,” said the Dallas resident.

His parents crossed from a border city decades ago.

“They saw the window of opportunity and they took it,” Perea said.

They were eventually granted citizenship under President Reagan.

Because of their experience, Parea said he understands the dangers in Mexico and the tough decisions people face.

“Sometimes the people take the risk and they measure it up and they decide, you know what we’ll go this route because the legal way, it just takes too long,” Perea said.

It’s a reality Rene Martinez is familiar with. He represents the League of United Latin American Citizens, better known as LULAC, here in Dallas.

“People are resorting to these drastic measures - in this particular case was tragic. So yeah I think we’re going to see more of that,” said Martinez of LULAC Council 100.

Martinez said fewer people seem to be crossing illegally right now because of advances in technology, but the ones who choose to get smuggled are paying a high price. He said not only are they risking their lives, the going rate Coyotes charge is as much as $8,000 dollars a person. Compare that to about $500 twenty years ago, he said.

Martinez is calling on lawmakers to work together to make change.

“You know it’s our failed immigration system. We don’t have a consistent, comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

As for law enforcement, a TxDPS spokesman said it’s difficult to spot smugglers without a tip from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many go under the radar unless they’re stopped for another traffic violation.

Coddington said the truck drivers committing that crime, know how to stay low key.

“They avoid scales, anything that has to do with law enforcement, backroads, everything. It’s not hard to do,” he said.

Contact Us